The Many Emotions of Starting Kindergarten

Parenting is never a steady thing. Babies change by the week, and though the changes are different as they reach toddlerhood and then childhood, they don’t seem to slow down. As this week starts, the girls and I find ourselves confronting yet another change: Riley starting kindergarten. It’s a big one and has caused quite the unrest in our house, an unrest we’ve each contributed to in our own way.

Riley has been looking forward to kindergarten starting since she celebrated the completion of her preschool curriculum in May. She has enjoyed getting her new backpack, school supply shopping, adding a few more dresses to her wardrobe, and daydreaming about riding the big red bus after school to Girls, Inc. Her excitement, however, has given way a bit to the reality of the situation. Some of her classmates have already had their last day at preschool, and last Friday she said her goodbyes to her favorite teacher who left for maternity leave. Needless to say, she has been fragile. In the last week, she has cried over Maddie wearing tights, leaving a paper seal she made at school, and my having forgotten her water bottle at work. Not soft sobs, full emotional breakdowns that have brought her to the ground in tears and left her eyes red for much of the night.

Maddie, quite frankly, is over hearing about this kindergarten thing altogether. Hearing about the exciting world her sister is entering, watching her get new things, and being dragged around for all of the preparations was fun at first but couldn’t end soon enough for her. She was firmly in the terrible threes before but has taken her temper tantrums and rebellions to new heights. Time out has become our routine first stop each day after school. She has, however, found a new interesting way of sharing her feelings. Since our lights out experience during our family vacation, we sometimes create stories before bedtime, each adding a new line to the story. This week the story went like this:

Maddie: And the old woman stole Riley and took her away.

Riley: Then the dragon saved Riley and brought her back.

Maddie: And the old woman came back and stole Riley away.

And so it went on and on. Let’s hope they can always work out their problems through creative writing.

While the majority of my week has been navigating the girls’ emotions, I have had my share of feelings as well. This week on the way to work, it suddenly dawned on me that a first day of kindergarten meant a last day of preschool, and I spent the rest of the car ride wiping away tears. I’ve teetered between frustrated and overwhelmed, trying to figure out how to make a new routine work for us and making sure that I have everything in order for her to start, which has actually been a great distraction from thinking about how grown up she’s getting and this big step toward independence she’s taking. Of course, the world doesn’t let a mom forget that for too long. While watching a not-so-interesting episode of Strawberry Shortcake hosting a ball, I had visions of Riley getting ready for prom and had to excuse myself for a small cry in the bathroom. Oh well. You can’t be rational all of the time.

I think we all will be excited to say goodbye to last week and this transition. Change is never easy but is necessary to bring good things. And I know there will be a lot of good ahead.